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Red Hot Chili Peppers: Isolated Bass and Drums on “Give It Away”

Editor’s note: Time for another isolated bass week. Check back every day this week for another great bass track in all its glory.

Kicking off our fourth Isolated Bass Week is the one and only Flea.

Flea and Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante wrote “Give It Away” during a jam session in the early ’90s, and the tune was recorded for the 1991 release, Blood Sugar Sex Magik.

This track also includes Chad Smith’s drums. Enjoy.

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Share your thoughts

Manuel Canay

he’s is one of the best out there.

Jon Hallam

Was this recorded on a Wal?

Peter Smyth

I prefer the isolated bass when it has a slight amount of the rest of the band, so as to be able to hear how it fits in with the song.

Michael Rashas

Wow, can even hear the screw-up at 3:35…



What I really don’t understand is why you call it a “complex bass-line”. It actually is very simple, reminiscent of the blues, of Come Together, and many other songs.
Sure the playing is very good and it works really well in the context of the song, but it isn’t complex. You should stop mistifying what these artists who attract the kids’s attention do.
I know you earn a living from selling this stuff and this is what the kids want to see, but mags should have an educative purpose too. Don’t lie to the kids. Don’t narrow their musical universe making them believe that what they already know and like is all that is worth knowing and liking in the world.


    Corey Brown (Author)

    I’m not sure what you think we’re selling here, Arepo. The “complex bass-line” is from the quote referring to Flea covering the full neck on this tune. So while it might not be the most complex out there, plenty of players struggle with utilizing the full neck. For those folks (and the “kids” like them), this is probably complex enough, no?

      Rob Hutchinson

      I second that: This tune (and album) is the reason I, as a then 15 year old kid, started playing the bass. I think it’s a great lesson in how less is more. It sits really nicely with the kick drum, and a great example of Flea and Chad’s rapport. As a side note, I haven’t heard anyone tell the “kids” not to listen to James Brown because it’s not complex enough.


      He covers the full neck with a very simple slide but in terms of notes or playing it can hardly be described as complex. Rock musicians tend to get praised for doing not very much and rock fans are generally easily impressed.



      Even though what I said may sound a bit disagreable, I meant it in a very respectful way –and I’m not implying that you have been unpolite or anything like that in response to me, I just want to make it clear that I don’t mean to be aggressive or to provoke. Well, that said, I don’t believe you were directly selling anything there. I was saying that you “sell” magazines, so you have to match your reader’s expectations.
      I really didn’t want to give the idea that you’re selling Flea, but I think you risk coming near to it when you sort of overrate him like you did. The guy has groove, he does what he does quite well, Chad Smith is a very fine drummer too and they have a strong connection when playing, but that is not complex music, not even in the sense that groove may have a lot of subtleties unnoticeable to those who look for “strict” complexity like one finds in prog, classical or bebop, for example,
      And Rob Hutchinson, James Brown can be rather complex, but, anyway, I don’t really think complexity is a good parameter to evaluate greatness in art. You may think I contradict myself now, given that it all started with me complaining about Corey’s attribution of complexity to Give it Away. The problem is: even though I don’t, peopole tend to equate complexity with quality, and it is sometimes used to legitimate someone’s music. I think we should be more careful with that.

      Best to you all, guys.

        Corey Brown (Author)

        Thanks Arepo. I took no offense to your comment, though I was confused about the “selling” part. Thanks for clarifying what you meant. Just to be clear, we don’t sell magazines. We’re an online magazine (no “subscribers” – especially not paid ones :) I still stand by the comment that the use of the complete neck is not something everyone is comfortable with (which we’ve heard a lot from readers). So that’s what makes this “complex” to some. Flea had far more complex lines on other recordings, no doubt. And I’m with you 100%… complexity does not guarantee quality.

        Bruno Migliari

        Couldn’t agree more with you, Arepo. I dig Flea (and practiced over this and all other “Blood Sugar Sex Magic” bass lines on a book of transcription that came out in the early 90’s), he’s a fantastic player, a very creative and funky one – but this line is not complex at all… a funky nod to McCartney’s Come Together, a great lick to have under your fingers, and probably one of the greatest bass licks from the 90’s – but the simple fact that it has a glissando spanning a range bigger than an octave doesn’t make it “complex”. And calling it that indeed leeds to “mistifying what these artists who attract the kids’s attention do”. That being said, I’d love to here more isolated bass tracks like this one, so kudos for Corey and the gang for posting this.

          Corey Brown (Author)

          Thanks Bruno, and … It was a quote. However, I think I’ve finally figured out what the original author I quoted must have been thinking: compared to quarter notes on the root, this is complex. Ha!

Vincent Soleil

one of the greatest and grooviest bass line ever ! everybody dance on Give it Away, you can’t saty on your chair !!!

The Grant

The Grant

Maybe not complex but could you play it live on stage jumping around and wearing only one white sock? LOL.

I kid. I am not even a bass player I just love hearing isolated tracks as I find them fascinating and “human” as you can hear what seems like little mistakes here and there. Sounds nice and organic .

Lisa Tiscareño McKinley

Thanks for the comments everyone, I was listening to a Beatles tribute band this weekend and they played Come Together (my least favorite Beatle song) and I was struck by the similarity of the bassline with Give it Away. I was just trying to make sure it wasn’t my imagination LOL! Glad I found your site!